Did U.S. Fracking Firms Break Environmental Law?

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"Safe Drinking Water Act regulation exempts fracking except when diesel is used."

Several energy companies may have violated environmental rules by injecting diesel into the ground without permits as part of a controversial natural gas drilling technique, according to findings from Congressional probe released on Monday.

The probe of diesel use in hydraulic fracturing, a practice that has allowed drillers to tap abundant shale gas, found that oil services firms such as Halliburton and BJ Services, which was bought by Baker Hughes Inc, injected millions of gallons of fluids containing the fuel into wells between 2005 and 2009. A total of 12 companies were cited in the probe for using diesel without proper permits.

Critics say the chemicals used in the process, called "fracking," can contaminate drinking water.

In 2003, the EPA entered into a voluntary agreement with Halliburton, BJ Services and Schlumberger to eliminate the use of diesel in hydraulic fracturing fluids injected into coalbed methane wells.

A 2005 law exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, except when diesel is used.

The probe found that no O&G service companies sought or were issued permits to use diesel fuel in fracking from 20052009.

"This appears to be an area of significant noncompliance with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act," House Democrats Henry Waxman, Edward Markey and Diana DeGette said in a letter to the EPA outlining their investigation.

The EPA said it "has embarked on an expeditious effort to clarify the permitting process as it relates to diesel use in hydraulic fracturing operations. . .[and] hopes to put in a clear permitting framework, so firms using diesel in fracking "receive the review required by law."

Halliburton said there are currently no federal requirements that companies obtain permits to use diesel in fracking and doesn't believe its activities violated the Safe Drinking Water."

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